Killing Veerappan Might Give RGV the Comeback He Desperately Needs

The bandit and rebel inside Ram Gopal Varma lives on with his latest film ‘Killing Veerappan’

3 min read
Sandeep Bharadwaj in a scene from Ram Gopal Varma’s <i>Killing Veerappan</i>

It was 1991 when a small Hindi film titled Shiva, a remake of a Telugu film of the same name by the same maker; hit Bollywood like a ton of bricks. In the booming age of romance and all things fluffy spearheaded by the 3 Khans, Shiva’s grit and rawness struck home. This streak continued with more path-breaking stuff like Raat, Rangeela, Satya, Company and so on. It seemed RGV would keep surprising film-goers. But in 2005, with Sarkar, a gripping but tepid remake of The Godfather, the avalanche stopped.

Film poster: <i>Shiva</i> (1991)
Film poster: Shiva (1991)

It is 2016 and diehard film buffs are still hoping for Ram Gopal Verma to come back in form and become once again, the brat-child of cinema that shook up a lot of done to death formulae, to create his own brand and language.

The RGV avalanche may have passed, but for many years, the director has been zooming his lens into the underbelly of society, whose naked truth he wanted to expose with abandon. His filmography is enough of a testimony to say that even though we might have termed him finished, but he might still have it in him. His footloose and fancy-free imagination, always on the lookout for hell-raising material, has now thrown up Killing Veerappan, a docu-drama thriller, charting out the man-hunt for the dreaded sandalwood smuggler, who evaded TN and the Karnataka state police for two whole decades.

The film is a detailed expose of ‘Operation Cocoon’, planned and executed by the Special Task Force, a paramilitary force that was specially created to nab the notorious Veerappan. According to police reports, the mission took ten months in planning, three weeks in execution and the final operation lasted only 45 minutes.

In the trailer, RGV creates the resident suspense, almost in his signature style. Unconventional camera angles, Ramu’s pet please and our pet peeve, of course play a role too. But the most intriguing part of the film is its casting. In a meta-fictive sweep merging reel and real lives, Ramu has cast Kannada superstar Shivrajkumar in the lead role of Kannan. Shivrajkumar is the son of Dr Rajkumar, thespian and the much-adored superstar who was kidnapped by Veerappan in 2000, and stayed in captivity for 6 whole months. His kidnapping was one of the most dramatic criminal contingencies of modern times, that had governments and the STF desperately wringing hands in despair.

Shivrajkumar plays the lead in RGV’s <i>Killing Veerappan </i>(Film Poster: <i>Killing Veerappan</i>)
Shivrajkumar plays the lead in RGV’s Killing Veerappan (Film Poster: Killing Veerappan)

Dr Rajkumar passed away in 2006 and ten years later his son rises to avenge his death on celluloid, a move as idiosyncratic as only RGV could imagine.

RGV’s latest film is not one that he dreamt up while surfing news channels casually. According to his own confession, the idea of making a film on Veerappan’s legendary status germinated almost 12 years ago. He finally gave it up when the famed bandit was killed in 2004.

But when he met Senthamarai Kannan, spy and STF Superintendent of Police, who played a pivotal role in Operation Cocoon, the bandit began to haunt him once again. According to Ramu, this film will bring into public domain, the intimate facts and details of the Operation, 80 percent of which the public is unaware of, he claims. A self-proclaimed chaser of truth, Ramu once again delves into a little known area, to fish out what lies behind the scenes.

His irregularities and excesses apart, this penchant for digging into the why’s and how’s, has kept his flame burning, (no pun intended) sometimes bright, sometimes low, but always burning. Let’s hope this time it’s a scorch and not a singe.

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